No new running backs and lunch notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 12, 2013 – 12:31 pm

The running back health is improving. Rashard Mendenhall is back to practicing fully and Andre Ellington (concussion) has been cleared but will be worked back in slowly. Ryan Williams, said Bruce Arians, remains day-to-day with his knee issues. One thing is for certain: Arians said the Cardinals are not considering bringing in another running back, so the concern for numbers there (Alfonso Smith and Stepfan Taylor are the only ones to have avoided dings) can’t be that great.

Other stuff from Arians’ presser:

— WR Jarrett Dillard has a concussion. He’s out until he’s cleared. G Daryn Colledge (leg) will practice limited today and is expected to practice fully starting Tuesday. He is champing at the bit to return after serving as Twitter analyst watching the Green Bay game from home. “That was a tough spot to be in,” Colledge said. “It was hard. I want to be out there next week against Dallas.”

— Arians said he expects DT Dan WIlliams (ankle) and TE Kory Sperry (ankle) back next week, so neither sounds possible for the game against Dallas. TE Jeff King (knee) is day-to-day.

— Is the 5-foot-9 Tyrann Mathieu big enough to play free safety in the base defense? “No doubt,” Arians said. “He plays bigger than he is and plays faster than he is.”

— Arians said rookie linebacker Kevin Minter played “extremely well.” “Sideline to sideline he was better than I anticipated,” Arians said. “He’s a thumper, exactly what we are looking for as a middle linebacker. Really bright.”

— The young receivers made mistakes about 50 percent of the time, Arians estimated. Because of that, nothing has been sorted out yet there.

— Arians had the same thoughts on the close cornerback battle, even mentioning solid play not only from Justin Bethel but Bryan McCann. It’s why Jamell Fleming, who was finally back at practice Sunday following a hamstring injury, needs to get on the field, he said.

— Arians wants to play his starters at least 20 plays against the Cowboys, but he doesn’t want them to go the full first half. He also is happy to have the Cardinals going up against a 4-3 defense for the first time after spending an offseason and a first preseason game against mostly 3-4 looks.

— As for the many mental errors, Arians admitted he was disappointed in part because he thought many would be avoided after the Cardinals essentially had the young players with their second-field practice during the offseason just so they’d get reps. “I would have bought into some of these mental errors had they not got all that practice time,” Arians said.

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Arians after further review

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2013 – 10:13 am

The Cardinals are back at practice this morning at the team’s Tempe facility for the first time since playing Friday night. A few notes and thoughts from coach Bruce Arians in his first media session since the game.

— The running back situation isn’t cleared up right now, starting with the fact running back Ryan Williams (knee), who insisted last week he’d be back for the Cowboys game, might not be back yet. “I don’t know if he’ll play this week,” Arians said. Andre Ellington is still being handled with kid gloves with his neck issue (he is sitting today) and Arians said Rashard Mendenhall is still trying to get the stiffness out of his knee.

— Safety/special teamer Jonathon Amaya suffered a slight MCL sprain in the game. Arians said he’d be out a couple of days,

— Arians liked the job of the offensive line and specifically praised LT Levi Brown for his work on Clay Matthews, although he noted Brown will have to deal with DeMarcus Ware this week. All four tackles played pretty well.

— G Daryn Colledge (leg) is close to coming back, but it’s clear Arians is looking at Paul Fanaika at right guard too. “We’re solidifying (the line) without (Colledge) pretty good right now,” Arians said. “Paul played really well. Hoppefully Daryn can get back out there. There’s competition now.”

— The Cards will practice half outside and half in their new bubble today. Long-term, it’s a big deal to have the bubble, Arians said. “We’ll be able to stay on a normal practice schedule,” he said. “It will show dividends I think throughout September. We’ll have normal teaching routine as opposed to having to bus over to ASU or morning practices or things that are different.”

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Making plays, and not, in practice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2013 – 5:15 pm

Nothing super exciting today, other than a chance to talk to Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter on the Cardinals Daily Report (below). But here are some notes and observations:

— Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Tyrann Mathieu forced a fumble, punching a ball lose after a catch by tight end Jeff King. It’s going to be very interesting to see him in games because over the last week or so, Mathieu has been a playmaking machine.

— We’ve mentioned Jaron Brown, Charles Hawkins and Robert Gill as receiving options, and after the depth chart came out it was clear Kerry Taylor had made inroads as the No. 4 receiver. Someone who hasn’t been mentioned (and I will admit I didn’t think we would be) is recent rookie signee Robby Toma out of Notre Dame. He’s not big, he’s not real fast. But it’s tough not to notice him catching almost every pass thrown to him.

— Veteran safety Yeremiah Bell made a very impressive diving interception — he fully laid out to grab it — against Ryan Lindley. Who says being 35 has to hinder athletic plays?

— (By the way, both the Bell pick and the Mathieu play are caught in today’s highlight package you can see here.)

— Bell said he hadn’t expected QB Ryan Lindley to throw the pass. It’s been a rough stretch for Lindley, and now Arians is talking about keeping only two QBs. It’ll be very interesting to see how Lindley does in preseason games.

— Drew Stanton did hit Andre Roberts with a long touchdown pass at one point.

— RB Andre Ellington left practice early on Tuesday with what looked like some sort of neck issue. It didn’t look serious (he walked off the field fine) but he did not return.

— Those sitting included DT Ricky Lumpkin (ankle), RB Ryan Williams (knee), LB Karlos Dansby (hamstring), G Daryn Colledge (leg), WR Robert Gill (hamstring), WR Kerry Taylor (hamstring), TE Kory Sperry (ankle), CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring), LB Alex Okafor (ankle), DT Dan Williams (ankle) and LB Kenny Demens (not sure on his injury).

— Just when Arians was asked about a lack of scuffles in camp, there was a scuffle. Guard Scott Wedige and defensive end Ronald Talley got into it a little bit after one play, but teammates quickly broke it up. Perhaps they were all warning the pair about Arians’ rule against camp fights.

— Officially John Abraham is listed third on the depth chart at linebacker. But as proof as why the depth chart is dangerous, Abraham — as he has been since he showed up — is running first unit nickel as the right side pass rusher. Matt Shaughnessy is on the left, with Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell in the middle. The linebackers are Reggie Walker (with Dansby out) and Jasper Brinkley. The corners are Patrick Peterson and Antoine Cason on the outside, with Jerraud Powers as nickel slot. Bell and Rashad Johnson are the safeties.

— Random note: Prior to Tuesday’s roster moves (which are unlikely to impact the salary cap anyway), the Cardinals had $5.76 million in salary cap space.

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Another Tyrann pick and practice notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2013 – 5:23 pm

The Cardinals were running deep red-zone offense — passing situations around and inside the 10 — at one point in Monday’s practice when safety Tyrann Matheiu got a hand up to deflect a pass near the goal line, hitting it straight up in the air and tipping it to himself for an interception. I know this has been said before, but the kid just is always in the mix when the ball is around. Could an opponent burn him for his aggressiveness? Maybe. But if he’s on the field, he’s going to create his share of turnovers. It’s hard to see otherwise.

Other tidbits from the afternoon:

— RB Ryan Williams, dealing with the knee irritation that has been keeping him out of practice, basically ruled himself out of the Green Bay game Friday. It’s disappointing to him on multiple levels, since it was a preseason game in Green Bay in 2011 when he tore his patella tendon and suffered the first of a few NFL injuries. “They started this whole thing, man,” Williams said. “I was really hoping to get over this hump in the sense of playing on that field where it all started, but you know, I’m not able to. So I can’t think too much about it. It is what it is. I’ll be there for the Cowboys, though.”

— Ever since Bruce Arians mentioned that his defense wasn’t getting its collective hands on the ball enough, they have. LB Daryl Washington, CB Justin Bethel and CB Javier Arenas also made picks. (That isn’t to say there weren’t a couple of nice pass hookups too. Charles Hawkins had a couple of downfield plays I recall.)

— G Daryn Colledge isn’t back at practice, but he was able to move around well enough to do the some of the snapping for the 7-on-7 drills. He doesn’t look too far away from returning.

— The tight end group was helped when both Jeff King and Alex Gottlieb returned to work. WR Kerry Taylor is out with some sort of leg/hamstring injury.

— DT Ricky Lumpkin went down after a play and took a few moments to get up. They brought the cart out but Lumpkin later was able to get off the field himself, with a limp, with the aid of head athletic trainer Tom Reed. Lumpkin was trying to walk it off on the sideline. It’s been a tough run for the defensive line and injuries over the past week or so.

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It may be five running backs after all

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2013 – 12:23 pm

The Cardinals’ top two running backs are sitting out practice again today, giving coach Bruce Arians the chance to praise the other three — Alfonso Smith and draftees Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington. At one point, he said that Smith was “having a great camp” and has taken a “great step” in making the roster. That seemed to bode not so well for the banged-up Ryan Williams, and indeed, Arians said “it’s hurting (Ryan) extremely not to be on the field competing for a job because those other guys are doing so well.”

At the same time, when asked how many running backs he will keep on the roster — remember, the Cards don’t use fullbacks — Arians said, “probably five. Four or five.”

“It’ll depend on how they all play,” he added.

If the Cardinals indeed keep five, that would allow all of them — Rashard Mendenhall, Williams, Taylor, Smith and Ellington — to be on the team. Would they be all active on game days? No, probably not, but it would allow flexibility if there was a decision to make on Williams if he is slow to come around physically.

That said, it’s clear Arians is hoping Williams is back on the field soon. That isn’t a surprise. Arians was talking about another injured guy — WR Robert Gill, out with a hamstring — when he delivered a line that makes sense with Williams as well: “The clock is ticking.”

— One thing is true: Arians said from jump he liked backs who could pass protect and he has yet to talk about running backs without bringing up the job they are doing in pass protection. (Today, by the way, he said the rookies have done a nice job in that area, and added Smith was too.)

— Arians said the injury list remains static. No one is coming back yet. Mendenhall (tendinitis) is sitting another day. Williams and G Daryn Colledge (leg) are making progress, Arians said, as is LB Karlos Dansby. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of concern that any of the players are sitting right now, nor if a couple end up missing the Green Bay game. “We’ll err on the side of caution,” Arians said.

— Arians warned about the upcoming depth chart that they don’t mean a ton in his mind. Some third-stringers on the depth chart are “starters” in certain packages. He pointed out LB Daryl Washington will be listed third on the depth chart and that’s strictly because of his impending suspension.

—  The coaching staff is “shooting for 15 plays” from the first unit in the preseason opener.

— Finally, we have a walkoff quote from Arians, talking about watching camp phenoms over the years, especially the guys who catch the eye all offseason. Many don’t pay off when needed.

“They are like thunderstorms,” Arians said with a chuckle. “There’s a lot of lightning and then they fade away. You’ve got to make sure it’s a real tornado.”

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Colledge’s beard and injured backs

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2013 – 12:19 pm

Daryn Colledge cut his hair this offseason. He said his face got a little lonely, so he’s decided to grow a beard. He had a beard when he played for the Packers when they won a Super Bowl. Foreshadowing? Colledge wouldn’t mind it.

“I’ve always been a facial hair aficionado kind of guy,” Colledge said. “It’s one of those things where I cut all of my hair off my head for the heat and I got lonely. I thought I’d grow the beard out this year and now that I’m injured I got to leave it on. I don’t even got time to shave anymore with all the treatment I got. I might just let it go the whole season we’ll see where it goes. The last time I grew my beard out I won a championship with Green Bay  and maybe we can use this as a catapult this year.”

The Super Bowl is, after all, in New Jersey this season — outdoors — so …

“When you hold a cold-weather Super Bowl like this year you’ve got to plan ahead of time,” Colledge said. “So maybe I’m just getting ready for what I expect this team to be able to do this year.”

— Colledge, by the way, should only be out a couple more days, coach Bruce Arians said. That’s good, because Arians also said Paul Fanaika could challenge for that right guard starting role. Colledge has never missed a game on any level, so he’d rather not miss the Packers preseason game.

— RB Rashard Mendenhall is dealing with patella tendinitis and will rest at practice today. Arians has no concern about Mendenhall’s issue and he is expected back Monday. RB Ryan Williams, with his knee issues, is going to be back “maybe after Green Bay, hopefully before Green Bay.” DE Everrette Thompson has an arm injury and will miss a practice or two. No other changes on the injury front, he said.

— That makes it tough on the running backs. No question that Stepfan Taylor, Andre Ellington and Alfonso Smith are getting plenty of reps these days.

— Much more about Patrick Peterson-on-offense to come, but Peterson said he has no problem taking the extra reps and Arians said it was natural to want to use Peterson on offense in a package that has already grown to 15 plays or so. “You think, ‘Hmm, that’s a lot of weapon sitting next to me.’ ”

— Arians was happy about his offensive showing in practice Friday. “The light went on offensively for a lot of guys,” he said.

— The Cardinals have a lot more reps in practice than other teams might, Arians said, although more teams have added reps and tempo now that the CBA prevents more than one practice a day. “When you had an afternoon practice and a morning practice you split it up,” Arians said. “We’re trying to get a two-a-day practice (work) in a one-a-day practice with the reps we’re getting.

The Cards do a lot of 11-on-11 work. “Coach (Bear) Bryant used to call it ‘country coaching,’ ” Arians said. ” ‘Let’s go out and scrimmage because we only have 22 guys so let’s play football.’ I think you can become a smarter football team that way.”

— Arians, always good with the soundbites, had this to say of why he likes having assistant head coach Tom Moore around: “Two things: I look young, and I have someone who has been there and done it.”

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Doing the offensive line math

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2013 – 9:21 am

Bruce Arians said he was still a long way from choosing his starting offensive line. At the same time, he said he did know “who the eight are. Or nine,” ostensibly the guys who will be on the roster for the offensive line. In other words, the pool he’ll have to choose from when it comes to those starters.

The question is, to which eight — or nine — is Arians referring?

The list mostly seems straightforward. Barring any roster moves, you figure Jonathan Cooper, Eric Winston, Lyle Sendlein, Daryn Colledge, Levi Brown, Nate Potter and Bobby Massie will all be around. That’s already seven. But at the same time, that’s four guys who basically only play tackle — Brown, Massie, Potter, Winston — and that may be too many for guys who couldn’t move inside if necessary. Someone may need to show some versatility. Or maybe they all don’t make it.

I think Earl Watford, as a fourth-round pick, makes this team, but he may be this year’s Senio Kelemete — he may have a hard time being active on Sundays.

Let’s say, for a moment, Arians is planning on keeping around all those tackles, maybe working some at guard. Let’s say he leans toward keeping nine offensive linemen. With Watford, that’s eight already. Who else? Vet guard Chilo Rachal? Guard Paul Fanaika, who has come on and has been working with the first unit with Colledge out with injury? Do you consider Mike Gibson, who can be a guard and center, the backup center or is Cooper — who played a little center in college — your default backup at the position should something happen to Sendlein?

Or perhaps the Cardinals will end up picking up someone off the waiver wire after final cuts. That, with this front office, does not seem far-fetched at all.

Regardless, it sounds like Arians and his staff, a week into camp, have already narrowed down their potential linemen quite a bit. It’s not a surprise. What it does do it reiterate, once again, how many roster decisions are made long before we get to the end of the preseason.

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Peterson’s plays and post-practice with Palmer

Posted by Darren Urban on August 2, 2013 – 5:06 pm

It’s hard not to notice Patrick Peterson on offense (I’ll have more tomorrow on the subject). Every day there seem to be more plays using the Pro Bowl cornerback on that side of the ball. Friday, he caught a long bomb from Carson Palmer over Tyrann Mathieu and later completed a pass to Larry Fitzgerald. Palmer said the Cards actually have a “pretty big package” in for Peterson on offense, and it certainly looks that way. Why not? He’s that good.

“If he wasn’t playing corner he’d probably be just as good of a receiver, H-back or Percy Harvin-type player,” Palmer said.

We all know Peterson doesn’t mind. The only concern would have to be Peterson getting tired playing so much offense when he’s needed on defense. Who knows, maybe that’s why GM Steve Keim collected so many experienced cornerbacks in the offseason — he wanted to give Peterson some leeway to get a blow if needed.

— OK, maybe I don’t think that’s why the Cards have their cornerbacks. Peterson is going to be on the field on defense, don’t worry.

— Palmer reiterated he’s still learning a good chunk of the offense, but it will come. He wanted to come to Arizona in part to learn Bruce Arians’ offense (check out this story here) and embraces the challenge of learning yet another new scheme after going through a couple between Cincinnati and Oakland the past few years.

“I’m very comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Palmer said.

— Along with Darnell Dockett, K Jay Feely was also absent from practice because of a personal reason.

— RB Rashard Mendenhall was fully dressed out for practice but for a second straight day was very limited, spending much of the time on a bike. The rest of the injury list remained static: G Daryn Colledge (calf), TE Kory Sperry (ankle), RB Ryan Williams (knee), CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring), LB Alex Okafor (ankle), NT Dan Williams (ankle/knee), TE Alex Gottlieb (hamstring), WR Robert Gill (hamstring) and TE Jeff King (knee.) (My mistake, I forgot LaRon Byrd, out with a concussion.)

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Early Arians talk and an OL in a week

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2013 – 9:58 am

The Cardinals just got off the bus here in Tempe — they still had meetings and changed out in the locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium before coming to the facility to practice — and Bruce Arians met with the media before practice, so they can all hope on the bus and leave quickly when today’s outdoor practice is over. Some news and notes:

Eric Winston’s ascension to the first-unit offensive line is just a start, Arians said. “We’re going to mix and match,” Arians said, noting that the line battles remain close and he wants to see how all of them work with starting QB Carson Palmer. Nevertheless, Arians added the Cards would like to settle on their starting offensive line in “seven or eight days” — which dovetails nicely with the Cardinals’ first preseason game in Green Bay in eight days.

— That said, Arians stressed, he wants to continue to build offensive line depth. That, in fact, is a bigger concern that the starting five, Arians said.

— Arians said C Lyle Sendlein has had a “fantastic camp” thus far. Important to note since center is the one spot that doesn’t seem to have any kind of intense competition.

— The coach said fourth-round pick G Earl Watford, who has been running third-string is getting better and the last couple of practices “have been a nice move for him.” He is cutting down on his mental errors. “When he gets his hands on you it’s over,” Arians said. “He’s just got to figure out who to get his hands on.” Watford’s development is key — you figure a fourth-rounder will be on the roster, but he’s got to be able to play if needed.

— Nothing new injury-wise, Arians said. RB Ryan Williams (knee) remains out one more day. G Daryn Colledge (calf) is “hopefully” a week away from practicing. It’ll be interesting to see if he can return for the preseason opener in Green Bay, although I don’t think the Cards will push it.

— The Red-White practice Saturday will be a normal practice, Arians said.

— There are officials at practice. Arians said he wants to have them a couple of times a week, at least with college officials.

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A new Pro Bowl, a day off and a mashup

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2013 – 12:25 pm

The Cardinals have the day off, so the NFL did us a favor and threw out a little news: The Pro Bowl is changing. The biggest news of these changes is that, instead of AFC-NFC, the Pro Bowlers will be picked and then “drafted” on to two separate teams. Could that mean Patrick Peterson covering Larry Fitzgerald in the Pro Bowl? Yes. Then again, we see this all the time in camp. (It’s been suggested this won’t work, that say Terrell Suggs can’t be asked to sack Joe Flacco, or Aldon Smith to Colin Kaepernick. Maybe. Seems like, in general, a good idea for a game looking for good ideas.)

There will be other changes too. From the NFL release:

  • Game within the Game – A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter.  This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct “two-minute drills,” which are especially exciting for fans.
  • No Kickoffs – The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first.  The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
  • Rosters – The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad.  The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
  • Cover Two and Press Coverage – The defense will be permitted to play “cover two” and “press” coverage.  In previous years, only “man” coverage was permitted, except for goal line situations.
  • Stopping of the Game Clock – Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass.  This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
  • Game Timing – The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
  • Play Clock – A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
  • Sacks – The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game.  Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.

We’ll see how it works.

— The Cardinals are off today. They resume meetings tonight and have practice outside at the team’s Tempe facility tomorrow. I’ll be curious to see how many of the injuries can be cleared up by then. (The team goes back to University of Phoenix Stadium Friday and Saturday, with Saturday being the Red-White practice.) Here’s the list of players who were still out yesterday: G Daryn Colledge (calf), WR Robert Gill (hamstring), TE Alex Gottlieb (hamstring), TE Jeff King (knee), TE Kory Sperry (ankle), RB Ryan Williams (knee), CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring), WR LaRon Byrd (concussion).

— With six days of camp and five practices in the books, it’s a good time to recap. So here’s the first mashup of camp. Truth be told, it’s very cool.

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